Friday, May 4, 2012

Vote For Pedro

My school just went through something very exciting...ASB elections! Although books and movies like to tell us that elections are always a huge deal, I've found that they are one of those things that differ from school to school. At some schools choosing the schools' leaders for the following year is one of the major events of the year, but at other schools it passes by without much notice. I feel like we know what the Hollywood version of school elections looks like, but is that anything like the reality of school elections?

When I was in high school myself, everyone wanted to be on USL (United Student League). All of the candidates and delegates from all over the school spent one entire school day in a caucus in the gym, where the interested candidates gave speeches and the caucus delegates narrowed the pool down to three candidates for each position. Then the voting was on, and the school was plastered with posters, mostly hand-designed, since I went to high school back in the stone ages, before the school voted. So, yes, we had speeches, but they weren't in front of the whole school, just the delegates. When it came time for the school to vote they just had the posters and the in-person campaigning to go on. 

At the school where I'm teaching now, ASB (Associated Student Body) is also a very big deal. When I first started teaching there, campaigning was actually a little out of control. I remember one year a girl (who was an only child and had parents with a lot of money) spent a ton of cash on her campaign. She had cookies made with her picture on them to pass out to everyone. She had professionals come in to install a custom sign way up high on a wall where everyone could see it and no one could touch it. She seemed to have unlimited resources for running her campaign. 

After that year, they actually put a dollar limit on what kids could spend on their campaign, since it wasn't really fair to compete against face cookies. This year saw a lot of clever signs taped up all over the walls, custom t-shirts, custom goodies like chap stick, bracelets, and buttons, and lots of home baked treats decorated with the candidate's name, but nothing too extreme. Because of the dollar limit, students had to be a little more creative. They made videos that were shown to classes every morning before class, and one student even scheduled a flash mob in the middle of the quad. 

No speeches at all here, though. I teach at a huge school, so the logistics just wouldn't work out. The videos are the closest we get, but those are more silly and attention-grabbing than serious like a speech. 

Elections aren't a big deal everywhere, I've found. The one year I spent student teaching before I started at my current school, ASB elections were hardly a blip on the radar. I was so shocked to find out that the guy running for president of the entire school was running unopposed, and I don't remember seeing a single poster or piece of campaign material anywhere on campus for any position. It was like elections never even happened at all. 

ASB flew under the radar there because the ASB class was held zero period, the same period all the athletes were required to take an academic class so they had their afternoons free for sports. This scheduling conflict kept anyone who was in any sport, meaning the majority of the kids who like to be involved in things at school, from being a part of the student government. Because those super-involved kids couldn't be a part of it, it never really caught on as something the "cool kids" at that school did.

The details of elections and student council change from school to school, but other things are the same across the board. One thing that all of these election experiences have in common? They all take place in the last few months of the school year before. I don't know about you guys, but I am always super annoyed when YA books or teen shows and movies have student council elections in the beginning or even the middle of the current school year. How does that work? The cabinet needs to use the summer to plan! You can't gather a leadership team for the school year in October! How could they possibly have thrown a Welcome Back dance with no student council?! (Is it just me who gets all stabby at this? Okay then.)

What about all of you? How was the election process at your school? Was it a big deal, or did it fly under the radar? Were the walls plastered with posters? Did campaigning get crazy? I'd love to hear your thoughts on student government elections and campaigning in the comments!


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